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HealthInfo Canterbury

Whooping cough vaccine for pregnant women

pregnant-vaccinationIf you're pregnant, it's best to have a whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine. This vaccine also protects you against diphtheria and tetanus and boosts your immunity if you've already been vaccinated against these. It's available free of charge for pregnant women from 13 weeks of pregnancy until they give birth.

The ideal period to be vaccinated is from 16 weeks of pregnancy to 27 weeks. The later you're vaccinated, the more likely it is that only you (and not your baby) will be protected, especially if you're vaccinated within six days of giving birth.

You should have a vaccination during each pregnancy, even if you had a childhood whooping cough vaccination or one during a previous pregnancy.

Whooping cough (pertussis)

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a very contagious illness that causes bouts of severe coughing, which can last up to three months. It's dangerous for a baby under 1 year old to get whooping cough as they may get very sick and need to go to hospital. Some babies who get whooping cough will die.

Whooping cough vaccinations

If you get whooping cough while you're pregnant or after your baby is born, there's a high chance you'll pass it on to your baby. Therefore, you should consider having the vaccine to reduce your risk of getting whooping cough. If you have the vaccine, it's also thought that you'll pass on some immunity from whooping cough to your baby.

The vaccine is available free of charge for all pregnant women from 13 weeks of pregnancy until they give birth.

It's also free of charge to parents or primary caregivers of babies admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit or specialist care baby unit for more than three days.

Your baby should still have their normal course of vaccinations starting at six weeks.

Other family members

All other people in your household and other close family members (such as grandparents) should have a whooping cough vaccination as they could be at risk of passing it on to your baby. The vaccine isn't subsidised for adults, but it's free for children as part of the normal childhood vaccination programme.

Safety of the vaccine during pregnancy

Whooping cough vaccine has been used in pregnancy for many years and has been shown to be safe for mother and baby.

As with all vaccines, there's a small risk of side effects. For this reason, you'll need to stay at the practice for 20 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

If you can't, or choose not to, have the vaccine during pregnancy, you should consider having it within two weeks of the birth of your baby. This will still protect you from whooping cough but may not give protection to your baby. The vaccine isn't subsidised after you've given birth.

Getting the vaccination

Call your general practice team for an appointment to have the vaccination. Let them know you're coming in for the pertussis booster vaccine as they may need to order it, which can take one to two days.

For more information on whooping cough, visit www.immune.org.nz.

Written by the Canterbury Immunisation Provider Group. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2017. Last updated July 2021.

See also:

Helping with fear of vaccination

Page reference: 45079

Review key: HIWHO-45653